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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


The Art of John Denman (clarinet)
Alfred PRATT

Souvenir díIspahan
Henri RABAUD (1873-1949)

Solo de Concours
Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)

Adagio arr. Denman
Louis CAHUZAC (1880-1960)

Variations sur un Thème de Pays díOc
Georges MEISTER (1848-1902)

Erwinn Fantasy arr. Gustav Langenus
Ronald BINGE (1910-1979)

The Watermill
Bernhard CRUSELL (1775-1838)

Introduction et air suédois varié
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Schön Rosmarin arr. Gustav Langenus
Caprice Viennois arr. Gustav Langenus
Jules MAZELLIER (1879-1959)

Fantasie-Ballet
Eugène BOZZA (1905-1991)

Aria
Gabriel GROVLEZ (1879-1944)

Lamento et tarantelle
John Denman (clarinet)
Paula Fan (piano)
No recording details
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9002 [69.32]
Error processing SSI file
AVAILABILITY
www.concertartistfideliorecordings.com

 


John Denman (1933-2001) will be remembered with admiration and affection by the many who saw or heard him. Training at the Royal Military School of Music gave him an excellent grounding for a future career as orchestral player and soloist Ė solo clarinettist in the Life Guards, principal clarinettist of many London orchestras as well as the Tucson Symphony after his emigration to America in 1976. He was also a teacher of distinction, notably as Professor of Clarinet at Trinity College. His many recordings gave an indication of his interests and enthusiasms Ė that marvellous Lyrita Finzi Concerto, never so far transferred to CD, his promotion of the British chamber tradition for the British Music Label (Bax, Stanford, Ireland, York Bowen among others and all standing with the best recordings made of them), not forgetting his Mozart and Brahms with the Flesch Quartet, his Spohr and his jazz discs with Buddy de Franco.

Here he plays a bravura collection of pieces, which range widely and take in mild exotica, competition showpieces, baroque transcriptions, virtuosic variations, operatic paraphrases and some Kreislerian sweetmeats. It makes for a heady programme. He is partnered by pianist Paula Fan, whom he married in 1982 and who proves herself a most musical and alert accompanist and one who relishes the opportunities for characterisation. The recital begins with Alfred Prattís Souvenir díIspahan. Pratt was a conductor and repetiteur at Covent Garden and the notes are spot-on to acknowledge some Fauré influence because it opens, despite the exoticism of its title, not unlike his Elégie. Denmanís middle register is prominent here in this luxuriant but non-pictorial pseudo-oriental piece. Rabaudís Solo de Concours was a Paris Conservatoire competition piece and whilst itís couched in vernacular showpiece style it manages, as was the point, to examine registral competence, scalar passages, tonguing and trills; especially effective is the deliciously romanticised quasi-baroque slow middle section. Itís hard not to be moved by the simplicity of the Denman arranged Marcello; with his breath control and dynamic variance he shades this with delicacy and charm. One clarinettist pays admirable tribute to another in Louis Cahuzacís Variations sur un Thème du Pays díOc; delightfully sprung with an episode in the minor that gives depth to the variations and adds consequent demands to the player. Meisterís operatic paraphrase, the Erwinn Fantasy, was arranged by another stellar clarinettist, Gustave Langenus, and is an operatic paraphrase of leaping and diving animation Ė up and down the scale and genuinely exciting.

Ronald Bingeís The Watermill Ė which may be better known as the music for the British television series ĎThe Secret Gardení Ė was originally written for oboe and strings. Itís true that the clarinet and piano duo canít quite replicate the plangency and wistfulness of the original but itís still a gorgeous tune. Crusellís forceful and clever variations receive a suitably engaged performance, one full of vivacity and energetic virtuosity, fully worthy of Crusellís frequently exceptional demands. The two Kreisler pieces feature Denman in particularly naughty mood; his rubati in Schön Rosmarin are certainly daring, allowing elasticities of line to bend and inflect the music; a violinist probably wouldnít get away with it. And in Caprice Viennois he indulges in some register changing (for dramatic purposes) as well as lavishing affectionate phrasing on the evergreen. Denman and Fan are as adept in the ballet warm-up piece The Fantasie-Ballet of Mazellier as they are in the romantic glow of Bozzaís little Aria or in the grandly imposing Lamento and subsequent sprightly Tarantelle of Gabriel Grovlez, a Fauré student who was involved in the Monteverdi revival in France.

Plenty of vivacious enthusiasm on display here; the sound is excellent and the typos on the back of the jewel case arenít replicated in the booklet notes. No recording dates but an otherwise charming and delightful disc.

Jonathan Woolf


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